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New novel coming April 1st!

Eden book

Today is going to be a bit different. Instead of a devotional, I’m going to be sharing the first chapter from my new novel, Eden, which is launching on April 1st.

It’s without a doubt the best book in the series, and I’m very excited for its release! Because not only does it mark the release of a new book – it also marks the release of new editions of Flood and Babel with brand-new book covers.

The reason why is because Eden replaces Cain, the first book I ever wrote. Many people did not like the fantasy elements, and the violence, of Cain. After Cain, I decided to move more into straightforward biblical fiction.

As a result, Flood and Babel don’t really match Cain, stylistically. I wrote Eden to fix that issue. But it also meant I had to re-write significant chunks of Flood and Babel for continuity issues this raised, and to tone down the violence of Flood.

To be clear, Eden is a completely new book. It doesn’t re-use anything from Cain.

Now, I’m excited to finally launch the entire series together! The way I had hoped to in the beginning.

On April 1st, you’ll get another email from me with a link to the book on Amazon. But before then. . . here’s what the book is about:

“You want me to tell of how I broke the world.” 

It’s the year 641 since the beginning of everything, and when Eve passes away, she leaves Adam the only man on earth who remembers all that happened since they walked in Eden. 

When Enoch, God’s newly appointed prophet, decides to collect the stories of the faithful from previous generations, he finds Adam in desperate need to confess the dark secrets he’s held onto for too long. 

Beside a slowly burning bonfire in the dead of night, Adam tells his story in searing detail. From the beginning of life, to how he broke the world, shattered Eve’s heart, and watched his family crumble. 

Will Enoch uncover what led so many of Adam’s children away from God? And will Adam find the redemption and forgiveness he longs for? 

Read the first chapter below, then pick up the rest of the book on April 1st!

Chapter 1

The moon hid behind a curtain of grey clouds. Adam stood in the shadows behind his home staring at the bonfire outside their small village until his eyes burned. But he wasn’t so much staring at the fire as he was the figure standing beside it and waiting. 

For weeks, Enoch—the newly appointed prophet chosen by God—had hounded Adam to come and share the stories he’d withheld from his children. To lay bare the secrets of his soul, so that the young man could record a history of the world for future generations.

Adam had been the one to invent their system of writing. For posterity sake, he was drawn to the idea of such a massive undertaking. And he couldn’t deny that he was attracted to the idea of confessing his sins to someone chosen by God to leave the hills they called home and never return. 

But that wasn’t why Adam was standing outside his home shivering. 

What lit a spark in him to sit beside that fire was the knowledge that Enoch was the only man in the last six centuries to hear the voice of Adam’s father, the Almighty Creator God. 

Adam had ruined everything. And since Eve’s passing last year, he had lived alone feeling the weight of a life filled with regrets. 

There beside the fire stood the only person who could talk to Father. And once Enoch left, Adam may never get the chance to speak with the Almighty again. 

Yet if Enoch were to fulfill Adam’s request, Adam would first need to fulfill Enoch’s. 

Enoch tossed more logs onto the bonfire, sending sparks skittering upward. Adam’s eyes followed those swirling shards of light until one by one they blinked away, leaving only the stars glowing like so many silver eyes behind them. 

Adam suppressed his fear, pulled his outer tunic closer, and walked into the ring of light. 

At the sound of his footsteps, Enoch turned and met his gaze. 

Adam nodded and sat on a flat stone close enough to feel the heat. Enoch didn’t look surprised to see him. As Enoch sat beside Adam on a fallen log, it seemed he had even expected him. 

“Do you feel prepared to leave?” Adam said. 

Enoch tipped his head. “More or less.” 

Adam opened his palms to the heat. Enoch looked at Adam’s hands, and his eyes widened. Adam looked at his fingers and realized that in the orange firelight, his blisters looked painful indeed. “The older I get, the worse they look at harvest.” 

“Do they feel the same?” 

Adam shrugged and smirked. “More or less.” 

Enoch stared into the flames. 

Adam yawned and stretched, then turned his back to the flames to even out the heat. 

“You want something from me.” Enoch picked up a stick and broke it into smaller pieces.

“And you want something from me.” 

“Sounds fitting.” 

“So, what shall we do?” Adam said. 

Several breaths passed between them. An owl hooted in the distance. Cold and clear. 

“If you tell me everything, and leave out nothing, I will grant you any reasonable request you can think of.” Enoch continued staring at the flames.

“Speak to the Almighty on my behalf.” 

“Done,” he said. “So long as you don’t try to hide anything. I need everything. Every mistake, every joy, every detail that matters. I have gathered all that I could from the others. I never realized until doing so just how much you’ve withheld from us.” 

“You want me to tell of how I broke the world,” Adam said. 

“Well, yes. But all of us have sinned, Adam. What right do any of us have to criticize you for your mistakes?” 

Adam showed Enoch his blisters again. “Why wouldn’t you? Right or wrong?” 

Enoch nodded and chewed his bottom lip. 

“Have you recorded their stories on tablets already?” 

Enoch shook his head. “The Almighty has gifted me with a memory nearly as powerful as yours. It is all in here.” He tapped his temple. “Soon to be here.” He tapped the stone Adam sat on. “But I will need to travel far. To carry that many heavy tablets would be unwise.”

Adam nodded, relieved because that meant there would be a limit to how easily the others in the village would come to understand whatever secrets he shared with Enoch. “If I tell you my story, you must not tell it to anyone here while I’m still alive.” 

The wind shifted, blowing a bit of smoke into their faces. “I will do what you ask.” 

Adam pulled his tunic over his nose until the wind shifted again. “I must admit . . . this past week, I’ve been wondering . . . maybe if I tell everything—confess for the first time the full weight of my mistakes—someone might find a way to finally be released from the curse of death that my sin purchased. After all, we are still searching for the fulfillment of my Father’s promise in Eden, and . . . who knows how much longer I will be alive.” 

“Is that what you want me to speak to the Almighty about?” Enoch said. 

“No.” Adam rested his elbows on his knees. “What I want to say to the Almighty is personal. But it matters more to me than anything.” After a moment, he added, “You still agree?” 

“Of course. I am the prophet of the Almighty. I do not bandy my words lightly. But if you are to share everything with me, you must begin right away. I leave soon.” 

“Where would you like me to begin?” 

“Where else? At your beginning.” 

My beginning?” Adam said. 

“Yes, if you can remember that far.” 

Adam scoffed. “If only I could forget. But that will take many hours.” 

Enoch nodded. “Would you prefer to begin in the morning?” 

Adam shook his head. “If I am going to confess my sins, I’d rather begin before other ears rise to hear them.” 

“This isn’t just about your sins,” Enoch said. “This is to chronicle the significant events of the history of the world. I need everything.” 

“You will get it. Now, enough niggling. Let me begin.” 

So Adam, first of men, lifted his arm as if to grasp the hand of some distant memory and pull it through the veil, into thick existence. 

And he began, “In my beginning was not darkness . . .”

A Prayer for Peace During the Coronavirus Crisis

We live in strange times. Two weeks ago, there seemed a chance everything would blow over. Now businesses are closing doors. People are staying inside. Much of international travel is banned. 

It appears that many more will get sick and die. Businesses will suffer, and financial pressures will increase. These are real, unusual pressures. 

So, today we will be praying together for peace and protection. 

Because one thing we are certain of: God is in control of everything, and our prayers matter. 

Lord, we don’t understand why any of this is happening. And we know that you grieve over the tragedies that have taken place. We know that you grieve over the tragedies that happen every day with car crashes, murders, death from illnesses, and more. 

But most, you grieve over your beloved children not knowing you and living the life you’ve offered to us. 

Don’t let our fear sap our lives of the joy of your presence! Don’t let our anxieties outweigh the reality of your power and goodness and faithfulness. You are our refuge. You are who we go to for protection and strength. 

Strengthen us now to handle what’s ahead of us. Calm our troubled spirits. 

We know that you will not protect everyone from a bad outcome. But you have promised to be faithful, to never leave us, and to always hear our prayers and comfort us in our pain. 

Then, after we die, you have promised that our greatest reward will be given in the next life. That we will be taken home to be with you, in total peace, and given a new body that can never die from sickness, never lead us away from you with a corrupt nature, but only lead us deeper into your heart, where we will live forever in joy and purity. 

So, replace our panic with peace, even as you give us wisdom in how to respond to these quickly evolving changes to our world. And remind us that together, we can weather much more than we can alone. By supporting each other in true, practical ways in times like these. 

Let not our hearts be troubled. What can sickness do to us? Our life is by the Spirit, not our bodies. Sicknesses may ravage our bodies, but they can never steal the unending life Christ has given us! 

And yet there are those who will die in this epidemic never knowing your name, never loving you, Lord. For their sake, and for the sake of our families and the work you have for us to do in the future, we will not be foolish and risk spreading this illness. Instead, we will be wise in preventing ourselves from getting sick, and in preventing ourselves from spreading potential sicknesses that we don’t even know we have yet. We will not be selfish!

You gave your life as a ransom for us. You came to serve us, not to be served. So, what is it for us to stay indoors and listen to the advice of professionals in how to reasonably keep this illness from spreading? 

Forgive us for feeling selfish for our freedoms. Make us into servants during this crisis who do not risk the lives of others, so that others will see our claim to your name is true! 

And by your supernatural power, slow the spread of this virus, heal people around the world from it, and give the people who are working on medical solutions wisdom to find how to treat this epidemic effectively and save many lives. 

We worship you, Lord. We thank you for the life you have given us. Thank you for every day we’ve had with you, and with each other. Have mercy on us! Defend us in your name. 

Amen. 

Meditations on Ephesians 2 – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Meditations on Ephesians 2

Grab your Bible and flip to Ephesians 2. Or, if you don’t have your Bible, go here to read Ch 2 of Ephesians on Bible Gateway.

Now let’s dive in!

Paul begins chapter 2 of Ephesians by transitioning away from talking about Christ’s life and power, to reminding us that we used to be dead in our sin (v. 1). Because we all lived totally enslaved to sin before Christ set us free (v. 2).

Our life used to be just like all the people we see who can’t stand God (v. 3). But God, because he loved us, made us alive in Christ while we were enslaved to evil (v. 4-5). Then he raised us up into a new life, right alongside Christ (who calls us his brothers, sisters, and friends!), to show the depth of his kindness (v. 6-7). 

And how does this show his kindness?

Because we were saved by his kind offer! We didn’t do a single thing to deserve it (v. 8). We didn’t set ourselves free or give ourselves a better life. So, we have zilch to be proud about (v. 9). We were losers! 

But God made us his living works of art, to do the good things that he planned for us to do before we were born (v. 10).

And now Paul reminds them to never act like they are better than other people. He tells them to remember they were losers. That once, they weren’t devout at all (v. 11). In fact, they were alienated from God and his promises, totally without hope (v. 12). 

But now, in Christ, those same people –me and you – who were wandering far away have been brought close into his arms (v. 13). He gives us life, hope, and peace with God.

He stands as our mediator, taking the punishment for all the evil we’ve committed, and showing us the love of God in a personal, tangible way that grows our love for him. 

Jesus himself is our peace. By letting his body be broken, he broke the wall of hostility between us and God, and unified us like a husband and wife are unified (v. 14). He fulfilled the ordinances of the old covenant between God and man to bring peace – because we couldn’t do it. The law only frustrated us and showed us our evil (v. 15). 

But Jesus unified God and man inside us by pouring his life into us. His Spirit actually lives inside us. His Spirit is our life

This is the unification he’s talking about. The “one new man in place of the two.” In purifying us by his Spirit, he reconciles us to God, and kills the hostility between us. 

We’re no longer angry at him for holding us to a standard that he knows we can’t keep. Instead, we see that he kept the standard for us. And, because of Christ’s life and sacrifice, God showed us tangibly the love he felt for us when we hated him (v. 16)! 

When Jesus came, he preached peace to both the devout and the people like us, who were wandering far off (v. 17). This means we all have access to God through the same Spirit (v. 18).

So, because of all that God’s done, we’re not strangers anymore. To God or to each other. We’re all part of God’s family (v. 19). 

And we became part of God’s family because we believe this good news that we were told through the apostles and the prophets. And Jesus himself is the foundation of everything they spoke about (v. 20)! 

All of us regular people, along with the apostles, prophets, and Jesus himself, are knitted together like a giant building – think “Church.” He’s building us into a holy temple for God (v. 21). 

And what makes this so amazing is that YOU are being built into a dwelling place for God by his Spirit (v. 22).

Your heart is being made into God’s home. And his heart is becoming your home! 

That’s incredible. 

What do you think? Are these reminders as helpful for you as they are for me? Share some of your own meditations on Ephesians 2 in the comments below!

PRAYER

Jesus, thank you for saving us completely on your own volition. Thank you that we had nothing to do with your offer. This sets us free from that nasty prideful attitude of thinking we’re better than anyone else. Lord, let that never be our attitude! We love you for your gentle kindness, and for living a morally perfect life. We couldn’t, so you did it for us! And now, you are making us perfect, day by day. Preparing us for the next life, when we will be totally set free from evil. Thank you for giving us a taste of that right now! For how your Spirit changes our desires. We abide in you, Jesus. Keep us in you! Make us more yours every day that goes by. 

DIG DEEPER

Pray for 15 minutes that Christ would give you the strength to live by his Spirit. Read through all of Ephesians 2 and remind yourself of all the promises in this chapter. That he is the one building you up. Then write out any issues you’ve not been able to overcome, and surrender them anew to God. That you trust he is powerful enough to overcome them for you. 

PS: Want to read last week’s devotional on Ephesians 1? Go here!

Meditations on Ephesians 1 – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Meditations on Ephesians 1

The below meditations on Ephesians 1 marks the first in a series that will walk linearly through larger chunks of Scripture.

After last week’s topical devotional—a critical examination of the Christian worship industry—I wanted to spend some time focusing on God’s grace. 

The first half of Ephesians (ch 1-3) is, in my opinion, one of the most epic dissertations of all time on God’s grace and power.

It’s so dense that I don’t have space here for more than just the first chapter. (I know, whenever I hear pastors say that, I instantly want to wander the halls looking for the water cooler—but I promise it’s going to be good!)

The plan is to continue this series until we finish the book together. Does that sound good? Let me know in the comments below, because I’m open to throwing more topical devotionals between. 

Because of copyright issues, I can’t quote every verse in the book. In lieu of that, I’ll be giving verse references throughout the text for you to follow along in your Bible, along with quoting occasional keystone verses. 

If you don’t have your Bible, tap or click here to read Ch 1 of Ephesians on Bible Gateway.

Let’s dive in.

After greeting the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul (the author of Ephesians) launches into a dissertation on God’s grace (v. 3-10) that is extremely meaningful, yet a little hard for my brain to absorb. So, let’s break it down piece by piece.

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Is God Pleased with Modern Worship Music? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

Is God Pleased with modern Worship Music?

There’s a lot of modern Christian worship music out there these days. And some of it makes big money.

But is God pleased with all that modern worship music offers?

Before we examine the answer to that question, let me give a little backstory to justify why I think I have any perspective to offer here at all.

While still in high-school, I started playing the drums professionally. At first, it was only a few gigs here and there, and some early work in a “professional” studio environment. Regardless, by the time I was 16, I decided that I wanted to be a professional musician for the rest of my life.

I went to a small private college that ran a focused music program. After failing to convince my family that I should major in music, I became a business major and obsessively played music for the next two and a half years (while barely passing my classes).

Music was my original passion long before writing ever became “a thing.” In fact, I nearly failed my college English class, and when I turned in a short story to the little private college’s publication, the editor patted me on the back and said, “Stick to music, bud.”

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What’s the most important thing a Christian can do? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

the most important thing a Christian can do

What is the most important thing a Christian can do? There’s lots of Christian self-help books that tell us how to enjoy life more, do better, know more about theology, etc.

But what’s become infinitely clear in my years of trying to be a Christian is how easily my heart floats away from Christ. It’s as if I’m a ship charting the waves under the direction of my Navigator. Then, every night, I return to shore and tie myself to the dock.

In the morning, I wake disoriented and moored in selfish desires for food, fun, or additional rest. I need some way to daily wake myself up, to remove the bondage of my fleshly nature and get back out to sailing with my Lord.

What God says in his Word is that prayer, worship, and the Scriptures are the tools God has given us to jump-start our hearts and minds.

Maybe my emotions are slower to respond, and my fleshly nature more deeply rooted than others, but I’ve found that the bare minimum I need to remain rooted in Christ—to walk through the day with a sense of his presence and power—is a full hour with him every morning.

Two hours is better, especially with additional time throughout the day and in the evenings. This is when I find my joy in him begins to explode, and I feel truly free.

But this self-discovery came about through years of walking with Christ.

After about a year of spending my first hour with Christ, I enjoyed my time with him so much that I wanted more. I started to spend my first two hours with him, and then I wanted more, so I spent some of my additional free time in dedicated prayer and worship.

You have to understand: I’m a lazy millennial. I have a short attention span, and grew up on video games and fast-food.

I am not the “type of person” to do this. And yet I found that time with my Jesus became my most treasured and enjoyable time throughout the day.

For an entire year, as I continued pouring myself into Christ, I felt (for the first time in my life) the peace that passes all understanding. I felt perpetual, pervasive Joy. I walked around with a genuine smile plastered on my face.

I was so happy it was ridiculous. This is not a joke. I’m not making this up. This really happened.

Then I got really busy, and went through some tough times with family, and I let that time slip, and my joy slipped with it.

I believe this is because Christ made us to desire and enjoy him. He satisfies me and gives me more joy than anything else possibly can.

The troubling fact is that it’s so ridiculously easy to forget this.

Our relationship with Christ is more intimate than our relationship with our spouses can ever be.

His life is literally pouring inside of us. Our spouse’s life can’t do that. We become one with Jesus spiritually and emotionally in a way we never can with any other person.

God promises, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

If you’re walking around feeling uninspired, spiritually dry, or distant from God, consider the amount of time you spend in Him every day. Then measure that against the time you spend willfully tending other desires in your heart.

Be honest: what’s that ratio actually work out to be?

Unless you have a clinical issue that’s profound and pervasive (such as a high level of physically-induced depression), I can virtually guarantee you the ratio of God-time to other-time is alarmingly low.

Let’s not blame God for our own infidelity.

Let’s make certain that if our emotions are in a bad place, we are at least getting on our knees, throwing away our distractions (tv shows, video games, books, or even this blog), and pouring ourselves into the heart of Christ until we feel the fire of his Spirit consume our bones.

Stay there with him until you feel it. Because you WILL feel it. Even in fifteen minutes your entire mindset will probably be turned on its head.

When’s the last time you spent 15 minutes in focused, thanksgiving-filled prayer?

I don’t say these things to encourage a sense of slavish religiosity. But consider this…

No two people will feel they have a warm and intimate relationship together without consistent and frequent quality time together. Positive time together grows a relationship.

God made us primarily to love him and be with him. The most important element of living the Christian life is spending time enjoying Christ.

So, are you spending time enjoying being with him?

If you want to grow spiritually, throw yourself into the heart of Christ. Abide in him and let him renew your mind. Then, and only then, will you walk by the power of his Spirit, in faith in him, who is your fortress, your sustainer, your life.

You will never regret the time you pour into Christ.

PRAYER

Lord, THANK YOU for always being there to listen to us. For always being willing to spend time with us, for always answering our call, and for being our comfort, our fortress, our support, our joy, our peace, our everything. Help us to remember the most important thing a Christian can do is be with you. We dedicate our lives to you anew right now. Take our time right now as an offering. And draw us deeper into you. Sustain us by your Spirit, amen!

DIG DEEPER

Take the next fifteen minutes and spend it in concentrated, thanksgiving-filled prayer. Maybe take it in five minute chunks, and set a timer. For the first chunk, thank him for who he is, and what he offers to us. You’ll probably repeat yourself a lot. That’s totally fine. Then spend the next 5 minutes worshipping him, either in prayer or by singing. Then spend the last 5 minutes thanking him for everything he has given you in your life. And consider dedicating one day a week as a Sabbath.

Pastor Goes to Prison? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

I didn’t think the Pastor would end up in prison. I just thought he was a jerk with a dark vibe about him. In retrospect it makes sense. Sexual predators are normally power-hungry. It’s more about control.

And that lust for control showed through when, from the pulpit, he angrily lashed out at people who were checking their phones while he preached “the Word of God.”

It wasn’t just a quick jab, either. It was long, uncomfortable, and bristling with an undercurrent of rage.

My wife and I were in complete agreement after walking out of that service. Something was wrong with that guy.

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How do you stay sober-minded? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

“The trouble with the Christian life is that it’s so doggone daily.” – Anonymous

Anyone can be a decently focused person for a day. But a lifetime? Here in America, Jesus would call most of us seeds sown among thorns. “. . . the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” – Matthew 13:22

In the past 12 months, I’ve worked more than my fair share of 60-70 hour workweeks. Not every week was like that. But the majority have been.

On top of that, I have a 3-year old who just started sleeping through the night for the first time in her life. So, my brain is now programmed to wake up 3,857,395 times per night for no reason. The result?

I feel worn out.

Yet Christ demands radical, heart-level obedience every day. No matter what.

When I’m tired, I don’t feel like working hard. I want a bit of, “Me time.” I don’t always by nature want a bit of, “God time.”

That is the evil programmed into us. The Bible calls it our “sinful flesh,” (Romans 8:3) or in places, “earthly nature.” (Colossians 3:5) 

We tend toward selfish desires. And part of what makes those selfish desires evil is that they fail to satisfy us.

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Should we love the law? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

“In the way of your testimonies I delight

    as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts

    and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

    I will not forget your word.” – Psalm 119:14-16

When my high-school teacher had me read her favorite section of Scripture, Psalm 119, I rolled my eyes and said, “How can anyone feel this way? Why would anyone love the law?”

She said, “Psalm 119 is the longest psalm of all—longer even than some entire books of the Bible—and it’s a massive poetic meditation on the beauty of God’s law. The Bible is celebrating the law, so we should celebrate it, too.”

From what I’d been taught, the law was what shows us how badly we mess up. (Romans 3:19) The law is the reason we’re going to die. (Genesis 3) The law is something that, in a way, incites evil in us. (Romans 7:8) At the time, it did not to make sense to celebrate the law.

“No, that’s not for us,” I said. “We’re under the new covenant. Back then, maybe. But the law stinks now. It’s bad.”

To encounter someone modern who said what the ancient Psalmists say—it was bizarre. I honestly felt she was some sort of alien. She was deeply emotionally moved by that psalm. Yet when I read it, I felt nothing.

That frightened me, because I trusted she was a Christian, and wondered what was wrong in my life that I didn’t feel like she did.

In the end, I wrote it off that it was because she was naïve, and that I was enlightened.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Does my pain have a purpose? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

In early 2018, I got a phone call that stopped my breath. “Something’s wrong,” my dad said. “We need to visit your brother. Will you come?”

How could I not?

When we got to his apartment, we found angels finger-painted on the windows, blinds hanging broken, and all the appliances arranged in circles in the garage. The sink was filled with water, and broken glass clogged the drain. There was nothing in the fridge.

But there was my older brother, standing at the counter, talking in the third person about himself, claiming that he (“we”) had three wives and that he (“we”) could make electronics invincible by running them under the water.

We were terrified. Had he developed schizophrenia? Had he been getting into drugs without us knowing and triggered an episode of psychosis—a break from reality? But that didn’t seem to make sense because he had never been like that.

As the ambulance drove him away, we prayed and wept.

In the ensuing weeks, we were forced to drop everything to battle for his health.

For a full month he stayed in the hospital, and the doctor told us that he had been suffering from undiagnosed bipolar mood disorder. The stresses had piled on top of each other and triggered a full break from reality.

My brother, essentially, was stuck dreaming awake. He had been experiencing such emotional pain that his body had to do something drastic to protect him. We had no idea if he’d break out of it. Some people never do.

This was without a doubt the most painful and frightening period of my life.

But the worst part about it was realizing that I had a part to play in his suffering.

He’d told me months earlier that he had been experiencing intense emotional pain, but I didn’t do anything about it because he’d said things like that before. But I knew, in my spirit, that if I had taken him more seriously and encouraged him to go to the hospital, he might not have been forced onto the brink of death.

It haunted me. It still does.

I kept wondering: Does this pain have a purpose? Please, Lord, let there be a reason.

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